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I'm gonna admit... I love Bus Tours with a theme. And I don't only mean the Halloween sort which I hopped on in 2007 and 2008, where I had the Kill Bill gang! Okay, I was kind of a sucker for school excursions.

Wendy got to know about the War On Wheels Bus Tours while working on a press conference media project for school. The inaugural tour was organised by the National Heritage Board as part of their Explore Singapore campaign. The guided tour aimed to allow participants to discover Singapore’s WWII history in a unique and experiential way. We had a choice of either 'Invasion Singapore!' which visits Kranji War Memorial, Ford Factory, Alexandra Barracks and Bukit Chandu or 'Singapore Under the Gun' which uncovers the horrors of the Japanese occupation. We decided to embark on the latter. For $15 per couple, the tour (inclusive of a pathetic veggie rice box) visit sites that are little known to the public.

Our bus ride departed punctually at 3:30pm. Wendy and I were the last to board the 40/50 seater bus at the Peranakan Museum. We had to rush to fill up an indemnity form (yes... back to the good ole school days) and barely made it.

Starting our WoW Bus Tour!

Upon boarding the bus, we were issued with our goodie bag, a garni sack material bag containing a 'I Heart Museums' Japanese occupation like cap, a 'I Heart Museums' lanyard, 2 'I Heart Museums' badges, a banana currency note (counterfeit), a WWII ration card, a program map, bun and biscuits and a bottle of mineral water. I'd have to say the items at 1st comically intriguing, helped us to better visualise our journey back to 1942.

Our 1st stop was a trip to the Changi Museum. The museum is dedicated to all those who lived and died in Singapore during the dark years of the Japanese Occupation during World War II, 1942 - 1945.

On our bus ride to the east, we envisioned ourselves as young Australian soldiers, later Prisoners-of-War (POWs) who spent the war days in this prison. We were told stories of hope and of the Changi Cross, a cross fashioned out of a spent artillery shell by Sgt. Harry Stogden, who lost his life in the prison. His only son never knew his father. Many years later, Stogden's grown son visited Singapore and the prison and was moved to tears upon seeing the cross. He shared in writing how at that moment, he felt a closeness to his father whom he never knew.

At the heart of the museum's courtyard is the Changi Chapel - a symbolic replica of simple churches and chapels built by internees as places of comfort and solace. Today, this chapel is a point of pilgrimage for veterans and families of ex-POWs.

Personal messages and dedications, left on the chapel notice board by visitors. The actual chapel can be found in Camberra, Australia at the ANZAC Museum.

Another replica in the museum is the The Changi Murals, drawn by Bombardier Stanley Warren, who was incarcerated by the Japanese. Stanley Warren began painting the murals as his appreciation to God for keeping him alive. These were painted in a small room at Block 151 Roberts Barracks, also known as St. Luke's Chapel where Warren was recovering. The murals deserve time to admire and appreciate. To reflect upon the gratefulness to have life.

Though small, the museum serves as an important educational institution and resource centre. As for the Prisoners-of-War (POWs) and their families, it is a site that allows for closure of the many emotional scars inflicted by the war years.

Stop 2: Johore Battery

Replica of the underground tunnels

The Johore Battery was constructed in 1939. It comprises a labyrinth of underground tunnels, used to store ammunition for three 15-inch Monster guns, which the British had constructed for the integrated coastal defense of Singapore. In total the British had 5 "monster guns", 2 of which were in Britain and the remaining 3 were installed in the Eastern coastal region of Singapore. This also signified the importance of Singapore to the British in the fight of WWII. The site derived its name from the Sultan of Johore who donated of 500,000 pounds in support of the British war campaign.

The Monster Guns were known as 15-inch guns, because 15 inches (38 cm) was the diameter of the shell they fired. Their gun barrels were 16.5 metres long and the shells stood 1.5 meters high. The guns were capable of hurling these shells at battleships over twenty miles away.

We all know from our history books that the Japanese approached Singapore by foot and bicycles from Malaysia, making these Monster Guns practically useless in land battle. Despite two of the guns capable to do a 360 degree turn around, the shells were designed to sink vessels rather then explode on land.

The actual guns at Johore Battery were destroyed by the British upon Japanese advance.

Part 1 - Singapore Under The Gun. Changi Museum & Johore Battery
Part 2 - The Sook Ching Massacre
Part 3 - The Battle Box & Victory of Singapore

More War On Wheels Bus Tour 2009 Photos

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